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Number Of Men In An Infantry Section - 1914


woolly
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I always believed that an infantry section in 1914 consisted of 8 men (broken down with a Cpl as Sect Comd, a LCpl as Sect 2IC and 6 riflemen) and John Lucy in 'There's A Devil In The Drum' appears to confirm this. However, Martin Hornby in his article 'Structure Of The British Army' which appears on the The Western Front Association website asserts that a section consisted of 13 men. Can any Pal confirm which is correct? Many thanks in advance.

Kind regards

Woolly

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I quote no less an authority than the Blessed Ron Clifton who says in 'Stand To!' (1990) that an infantry section consisted of 'twelve men under an NCO'. He also says that he describes the battalion '..as it should have been, rather than as it actually was'.

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Depends on if they had changed from the 8 Company to 4 Company per battalion organisation. Some had and some hadn't.

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According to the Author's Note in Terry Norman's "The Hell They Called High Wood" in 1916 a section was made up of 14 men commanded by a corporal, four sections made up a platoon with an officer, sergeant, runner and batman, four platoons made a company, usually with a captain in charge of each, and four companies made up a battalion. Obviously casualties could make significant changes to these establishment figures.

My ten year old has been enlisting my assistance in sorting out the make up of divisions and corps so I hope this is correct!

Can anyone enlighten me as to when the changes were made after 1914?

Cheers,

Rob

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Hello all

I must disclaim the beatified status Ian has granted me, althogh I have stayed at the Hotel Beatus in Cambrai.. :lol:

As squirrel says, it depends whether you refer to the 4-company or 8-company system, but for WW1 purposes the 4-company setup was the norm. It was introduced for Regular battalions in late 1913 but TF and Indian battalions started the war with eight companies, transforming to four companies as they joined the BEF. A pre-1913 section was a quarter company (24 men under a sergeant) but was divided into two squads which equated to the sections of 1914 onwards.

The tendency in 1914 was to have as small an "admin tail" as possible, and the establishment of one NCO and twelve men included batmen in particular.

There was a major change in the organisation in Feb 1917, set out in GHQ letter OB/1919 and leaflet SS143. I quote from the latter:

"The Platoon ... has a minimum strength, exclusive of its Headquarters, or 28 OR and a maximum of 44 OR."

In other words, one NCO and six to ten men per section. The illustrations in the rest of the leaflet are based on one NCO and eight men as an average. The platoon HQ was a subaltern and four ORs (Platoon sergeant, signaller, batman and runner). Many of the battalion "specialists" (snipers, scouts, cooks, batmen, extra stretcher bearers etc) were now attached to battalion HQ, although the "HQ Company" of WW2 did not exist as such.

All these details related to the establishment i.e. officially sanctioned composition. Casualties would of course reduce the size, and men would be left out of action to provide a core for rebuilding after heavy losses. SS143 also says that when the number of men in a section fell below six, sections (and, if necessary, platoons) could be temporarily amalgamated so that the basic "fire unit" was never too small to be effective.

Here endeth the lesson!

Ron

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Hello all

I must disclaim the beatified status Ian has granted me, althogh I have stayed at the Hotel Beatus in Cambrai.. :lol:

Ron

Looks like you deserve the status Ron! That's a great bit of information.

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Many thanks to all those who have supplied the DS solution to the question!

Kind regards

Woolly

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